24 Dec 2013

Christmas Modelling Challenge

Christmas Modelling Challenge
Once in a while you get asked to model an object in 3D which at first appears easy but then proves to be problematic. Then on the flip side you get an object that at first appears very complex and transpires to be far simpler to model than you initially thought.

I will leave you to decide which category this next shape falls into but your Christmas challenge is to model the following:


Modelled in Autodesk Inventor by Peter Barker
It is called a ‘Mobius Strip’; it’s quite an interesting and also curious shape because it only has one surface and one edge.

Good Luck and have a good Christmas.
Peter Barker

17 Dec 2013

Microsoft offering around 150 free e-books

If you have a hankering to learn SQL Server,  Visual Studio, SharePoint Server,  Office, Windows, or virtually anything that Microsoft develop then Eric Ligman, Microsoft's Sales Excellence Manager has a treat for you on his blog.

For the princely sum of zero pounds and zero pence, there are 145 (I counted them) individual files available for download in a variety of formats to cater to your preferred method of media consumption.

If you were looking for something to occupy your time while eagerly awaiting an appearance from Santa this Christmas, I think Microsoft have you covered.

Scroll down his blog for the full list.

13 Dec 2013

Nvidia Maximus - for all your rendering and simulation needs

Another month, another graphics card solution from nvidia.  If you are embracing simulation analysis in your design workflows but are spending far too much time waiting for your solutions to finish and release your system back into a usable state, nvdia have an answer.

This time they've brought out technology that should catch the eye of most designers and engineers in the field - a single-system solution for combining rendering capability with simulation analysis in the form of a dual card set-up known as NVIDIA Maximus.

Making use of an nvidia Tesla card to take the brunt of the computational work in your system, you're free carry on your design work with the additional power of the Quadro card.  Exploring further design ideas while your first iteration is being solved in the background is an extremely productive way to work, and may help alleviate your growing addiction to coffee breaks.

The hardware is backwards compatible with existing machines and the official marketing page (linked above) provides system designers with enough information on how to implement this technology.  It may  be an idea to use it in conjunction with something a little more beefy than a Celeron.

As yet we don't have specific performance graphs of Autodesk software, but as soon as I can convince one of the Micro Concepts shareholders to buy me a package for the office, I'll get my excel spreadsheet out and start number crunching with the Tesla, and posting pictures with the Quadro.


12 Dec 2013

The Wolfram Language - trivialising programming languages

Wolfram Alpha is a search engine that offers up results based on calculations and general knowledge.  It can handle any complex mathematics that you throw at it and can give you a variety of answers when your query is ambiguous.  The programming behind it is impressive, and it's the evolution of that code that has led it's creator, British scientist Stephen Wolfram, to announce what he claims will be a new unified language of programming and computation in the form of the Wolfram Language.  

"A new level of computation"

His ambition is for this language to be integrated across all forms of computing so that the massive web of algorithms contained within may handle everything that humans require as output: " laying out graphs or doing image processing or creating user interfaces".

He aims to reduce the knowledge required for programming to simply being able to understand a native language.  By using natural expressions and syntax, the automation of tasks and creation of content would become trivial, and the entire world of programming would open up to anyone with access to a computer.

It's quite a bold claim that critics of his controversial book A New Kind of Science may be quick to denounce.  But if successful, it will change everything we do with computers and consequently our way of life.

You can read his entire announcement on their company blog.


10 Dec 2013

Augmented Reality technology round-up

Augmented Reality is the term for overlaying computer generated imagery with the real world, accomplished by projecting graphics on to a real-world view.  The technology exists on phones and tablets already, but the real goal is have it projected into your field of view.  Fighter pilots have been using bespoke AR for decades but as of yet the consumer market hasn't been gifted with such technology although that is set to change.

The technology garnering the most attention of late has been Google Glass, and the company have just announced the option to buy a development kit of the for a mere $1500.  This is seen by many as the first giant leap for consumers into the world of augmented reality, but Google themselves have stressed that this is mainly a piece of hardware for recording the world as you see it, mixed with notifications and google search functionality.  Their website shows the  premise of navigation and language conversion but without stereoscopic vision and a lack of graphical power, the results may never reach the quality that you see simulated in computer games and movies.

However, there are other devices on the horizon which promise to accelerate us into this new era of visual communication I'll have a look at some of these concepts below.

On paper these appear to be the most promising.  The possibilities addressed in their concept video are mind-blowing although you may not want to wear them outside of the house.  Not only do they project 3D images on to the inside of the glass, there is a built-in 3D Kinect-like sensor to determine close vicinty positions which means you can actually interact with the real-world and virtual-worlds as opposed to only receiving information.  If the technology can do half of what is shown - playing virtual chess with a friend, facial recognition of business associates, and instant transition from 3D modelling to 3D printing - then they are worth a purchase at less than half the price of Google Glass.

This product is a little more niche, and uses completely different technology to achieve the augmented effect.  They are being developed for virtual table-top gaming (the kind you see beardies playing in the Games Workshop stores in town).  Instead of projecting images on to the inside of the lens, they project information to a reflective screen which is then picked up by the glasses to provide high definition images.  This definitely limits their application, and unless 3rd party developers decide to expand the functionality then these may not become as mainstream as other offerings.

The company developing these, Vuzix, have already released a virtual reality version (1200VR) so have experience in designing hi-tech glasses for the consumer market.  It's not clear how much support these have for consumer or industrial markets, but their striking design should leave it clear to on-lookers that you're not sporting them for the sake of fashion.

If looking trendy is more important than experiencing the most cutting-edge technology, then these are possibly for you.  Very similar to Google Glass but the projector and lens has been designed to blend in better with their frame.  Function hasn't entirely been sacrificed in favour of form and the company lists services that are at least on a par with the offerings from Google Glass.  How they fare in the long-run against Google and their apparently limitless research budget remains to be seen.

Not much information on these as of yet but they look quite striking.  More details were apparently revealed at November's Tokyo Motor Show but little has surfaced.  Either way, these are no doubt designed with driving in mind, so we they may offer navigation potential.


6 Dec 2013

Factory Design Utilities Service Pack 1

There is an update available for Factory Design Suite 2014's Utilities over on the Autodesk website right now clocking in at a modest 33MB.  Please note that you must install SP1 for Navisworks before installing the utilities service pack.

Autodesk_Factory_Design_Utilities_2014_Service_Pack_1.zip(zip - 32927Kb)

As always, please consult the readme before making any updates to your software

4 Dec 2013

Simulation CFD 2014 Service Pack 2

This one has been available since September, but is worth highlighting for those new to the software.

"A service pack (SP2) has been released for Autodesk Simulation CFD 2014. This marks the second update available to Simulation CFD 2014 and can be applied without SP1 being install on your computer. In this service pack various defects were resolved. In this solution article you will find more information covering the highlights of the service pack, the patch file, and links to the release notes."

32-Bit Installer (.msp ~55 MB)
64-Bit Installer (.msp ~63 MB)

As always, follow the Release Notes before upgrading.

Highlights of Issues Addressed in this Service Pack:
  • The Thermal Comfort topic in the Help documentation was clarified to indicate that running radiation as a “0-iteration” analysis after the simulation is complete can improve accuracy in some cases.
  • The Simulation CFD launch command does not appear in the SolidWorks 2013 user interface.
  • The transient harmonic boundary condition does not produce the correct results distribution on the applied surface. 
  • The UGNX CAD Connection license is not being checked out correctly when launching from UGNX into Simulation CFD.
  • The average temperature reported on a Summary Part in the Decision Center is incorrect and different from the value reported in the Parts dialog box and in the Component Thermal Summary (CTS) file.
  • Absolute Pressure is displayed incorrectly when solid parts are included within the simulation.
  • The Help documentation contains an incorrect description of the path needed to manually configure the Simulation CFD launcher in UGNX.
  • A simulation that contains periodic boundary conditions exits unexpectedly and fails to complete.
  • Simulations that contain distributed resistance surface parts and are run with an analysis length unit other than meters do not predict the correct operating pressure for the fan
  • Locally installed Help documentation does not load on XP.
  • When opening a Simulation CFD 2013 Design Study file that was created on a non-English OS into Simulation CFD 2014, the localized string for “CAD Volume” appears as garbled text.
  • A particular Design Study causes Simulation CFD 2014 to crash when the simulation is opened after having finished running. 
  • In a design study containing multiple scenarios, right click on a non-active scenario, enable Adaptation and set the Solver Computer to Local. A crash occurs when activating this scenario after the simulation is complete.
  • Simulation CFD crashes if no solver computer is selected prior to clicking Solve to start the simulation. 
  • The indicated progress percentage is incorrect for a transient simulation that includes multiple inner iterations per time step. The indicated progress percentage can surpass 100%.

Inventor 2013 templates overwritten on application options import

An issue with Inventor 2013 templates has appeared where the custom templates you create are being overwritten by the factory set defaults when you import application options.

One option as a protective method is to set your template to Read Only, however this is not ideal for those utilising custom templates on a network.

A simple workaround is to set the default template located on you local drive (the default template). However in the project the template would continue to be set as the shared templates folder.

This set up should prevent your custom templates form being mistakenly over written.

Step one is to access your Application options in Inventor - under the file tab make sure the default template is using the path way to your local drive. It should be like the following explorer link:
C:\Users\Public\Documents\Autodesk\Inventor 2014\Templates
Or follow the folder options on the right hand side of the image above.

Step Two is to make sure your Project templates folder is directed at the custom templates located on your network drive. The project setting overrides the setting in the application options.

Also if you find other times that your templates are overwritten this will often come about by changing the default template settings in the application options or in the start up screen. If you already have your templates created and set correctly then there is no need to change this option.

2 Dec 2013

How to remove Autodesk 360/Sync

Autodesk 360 with Sync is the integrated cloud hosting synchronisation tool automatically installed now with many of the Autodesk applications. This gives great versatility to share and synchronise documents around multiple locations while keeping everything in sync. Even your AutoCAD settings and profiles can be synchronised so you can easily move from one machine to another and retain your familiar settings and interface.
If however you don't want this functionality and want to remove it from your system it can appear to be a problematic program to remove.  Once on your system it appears to grow roots, purely because it is integrated in all the Autodesk applications,  and can not be removed until all other Autodesk products are gone.

In order to remove the program however you can modify a registry key.  Open REGEDIT from the Run menu and browse to:

HKLM\Software\Autodesk\Autodesk Sync

and delete the key for "Installed Products"

Autodesk 360 can now be uninstalled from Programs and Features.

Before you do though we would encourage you to try it out. It's a great tool for sharing and collaborating and Autodesk 360 is continually being enhanced and enriched with new functionality.